Monday, 30 March 2015

Spring Snow in the Southern Cairngorms

So the plan was to head up to Aviemore this weekend, see pals and pick up my Jumbo Jims from Bothy bikes. A last minute change of weather forecast dictated I got Friday off and headed up mainly under pedal power to get some miles in as part of my Highland Trail training programme (such as it is). The car was abandoned at Blair Atholl (again!) and I took a rash decision to tackle the Minigaig as it shouldn't be too snow covered right?

Early indications were good - sun and dry trails.

As I climbed up Glen Bruar the full folly of my route choice was slowly revealed - lots of snow - old consolidated patches on leaward slopes but also rather a lot of fresh snow from Thursday. It all looked fairly high but a quick map check showed I would sooon be in amongst it.

From the top of Glen Bruar the minigaig path leaps up a steep hillside and then crosses a vast area of high plateau with one small valley to cross. Half way up the initial climb the path disappeared under an enormous drift of snow filling a gulley - teetering across a 45 degree snow field with 45lbs of bike and bags is quite tricky.... higher up the gradient eased and reduction of tyre pressures allowed hard but steady riding. So began the fun....

The old snow was iron hard with only the top inch or so soft. Zero traction on steeper slopes but nice riding otherwise. The new stuff had formed occasional patches of windslab which made for harder going. The path was gone - only the odd cairn just poking above the snow showed its line. The one burn you have to cross had a huge snow bridge covering it so no worries about wet feet. After that you climb up a small side burn which was covered completely....

There's a stream under here! Blue sky and snow is a great combination

From the minigaig summit the best route is to turn south east and climb over two bumps to descend into Glen Feshie. Riding was easy - just link the snow fields. At times it seemed like I was in the middle of a vast arctic wilderness with no-one else to be seen, not even footprints. The reward for my efforts was this vast field of snow down which I let rip....

Thereafter an easy track descent with only occasional snow drifts took me down to the Feshie and a very pleasant ride through the upper speyside woods on dry trails in warm sunshine. Saturday involved a wee jaunt around the trails near Carrbridge and Boat of Garten. 

Sunday I chose the Gaik as an easier return to the car - there was still a few big dods of snow (and a rather scary cornice frowning over the singletrack section) - with only heavy snow and rain showers as well as 2.5kg of new tyres on my front harness providing the challenge. All in all a bonus weekend this early in the season!